North Central College alumna pursues class of ’51
Submitted November 8, 2011 3:48PM
Leota Buss Ester of Appleton, Wis., right, shown visiting with Marcia Meyer Hawkins of Arlington Heights, visited 28 states to see 120 classmates from North Central College's class of 1951 and personally hand-deliver invitations to the group's 60th reunion. | Courtesy of North Central College
Updated: December 10, 2011 9:46AM
Braving thousands of miles with unflagging energy, Leota Buss Ester of Appleton, Wis., is giving her time and resources to visit almost every member of North Central College’s Class of 1951. Ester personally hand-delivered invitations to every surviving classmate she could find, encouraging them to attend the Nov. 11 Sesquicentennial Celebration marking the college’s 150th anniversary.
“My hope is that at least 60 of us gather in November for our 60th reunion to see our beautiful new, but still the same, campus — and to share our stories with one another,” she says. Ester traveled throughout the West Coast, the South, the East Coast and the Midwest on her mission.
In her own words, here are some highlights of Ester’s experience:
“Lost in the hills of Pennsylvania, I’m trying to find Ralph and Mary Huth in Pittsburgh to give them their invitation to the Class of ’51’s 60th reunion and North Central’s 150th anniversary celebration. I asked myself, ‘What am I doing? Why am I going to every classmate’s home to deliver this invitation?’
“I came up with the answer in Ohio. It’s the stories. The one about professor (Richard) Eastman coming to class earlier than usual the day Jean Crosby had just gotten an ice cream cone. He asked her to finish it in the hall. She couldn’t. Her legs would’ve collapsed she was so embarrassed. She set it on the window ledge instead. Her friend, Janet Lederman, would reach over, take a lick, while Jean remained immobilized. Later, Professor Eastman apologized, and she grew comfortable in his class again, in fact, got an A in it. Professor Eastman. No name is mentioned more than his. Prepared, knowledgeable, fair, demanding, patient, these are among the adjectives of admiration and appreciation for him and his teaching.
“Some classmates I didn’t know, and they don’t remember me. It matters not. We tell stories that make us laugh. One remembers coming in after dorm hours, one of us started the Sadie Hawkins Day event. We all remember green beanies, the rope tug of war over the DuPage River with the sophomores, First Church and Grace, no dancing allowed. The list goes on. When I called one classmate asking to visit, he said, ‘I don’t know. I’m getting old.’ Then he paused, laughed a bit, and went on, ‘But so are you, I suppose.’
“Elton Tietz took me on a tour of his newly redecorated Southwestern home outside Phoenix. We worked our way through the 1951 Spectrum, the pictures reminding us of old friends, stirring our memories. ‘There,’ he’d cry, pointing out classmates. ‘I want them to be at the reunion. I want to see them again.’ And, the beautiful girls. I believe that he was in love with all of the girls of ’51. All except me. And we laughed.
“Ray Polivka ’51, after a lifetime of working for IBM, worked on a real problem — getting Betsy Erdmann Germanotta and me on the right train back to New York. Later we relied on the GPS to find Bruce Rogers, who lives just under Mt. Shasta. We had a hug from Jim Hook in bed with Parkinson’s, but with a story of developing a program for collecting more than 40,000 books for African countries like Rwanda. So many stories. How could this trip be other than satisfying?
“Stepping out the front door into Cincinnati sunshine, Burton (Class of ’49) and Jean Crosby (’51) burst into ‘North Central is the school we love ...’ and I joined in to make it a chorus of three, not caring a bit what the neighbors might think.
“And what are we like? Mostly middle-class folks who have been of service to their communities, families and country, surprised with where life has taken us, but not changed from the values we brought with us to North Central — and which carried us through our lives.”
North Central College will celebrate homecoming this weekend. The Sesquicentennial Reunion Celebration will take place Friday in the college’s residence hall/recreation center. The homecoming parade begins at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at North Brainard and East School streets. The Cardinals will play North Park University at 2 p.m. Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium, 455 S. Brainard St.
This article, which previously
was published in North Central
College’s alumni magazine,
is courtesy of the college.